Jon Rosales

Associate Professor Environmental Studies Department

Ph.D. Conservation Biology
University of Minnesota
Minneapolis, MN

M.A. Public Affairs specializing in Technology, Energy and Environment and Foreign Policy
Humphrey Institute at the University of Minnesota
Minneapolis, MN

M.A. Economics specializing in Ecological and International Economics
Mankato State University
Mankato, MN

B.A. International Relations
University of Minnesota
Minneapolis, MN

Jon Rosales

Dr. Jon Rosales is a climate change scientist focused on the impacts of climate change on native peoples in the Arctic.  His expertise and scholarly focus is on developing scientific field methods that measure traditional ecological knowledge of arctic climate change.  Threaded through his work is a call to align human institutions within natural limits by challenging “monocultures of the mind,” or fossilized ways of thinking, that overwhelm the planet.

Research platform

As with many professors, Dr. Rosales' classes stem from his research.

In 2009 Dr. Rosales initiated the Alaskans Sharing Indigenous Knowledge ( project.  AKSIK documents the impacts of climate change on two native villages in Alaska – Shaktoolik and Savoonga – and documents key community vulnerabilities and communicates their adaptation needs via the project’s website.  Phase I of the project documented via semi-structured interviews 34 distinct climate change related impacts in these two villages (Ignatowski and Rosales 2013).  Phase II ranked, via a survey, how disruptive and how obvious those 34 impacts are to villagers (Rosales and Chapman 2015).  Phase III is measuring, one-by-one, the most disruptive of those 34 impacts via innovative field methods that attempt to measure traditional ecological knowledge of those changes.

These changes are discussed with the Tribal Councils in the villages he studies, Savoonga and Shaktoolik, that serve as site of tremendous traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) of their landscape.  The Tribal Councils in those villages identify the most pertinent changes to their villages and together, scientist and traditional knowledge holders, they identify the next topic to study.

The first project in phase III is to measure the TEK of storms becoming more severe.  When asked, TEK holders in Shaktoolik tell us that they know (and could measure) storms getting stronger by where driftwood and debris lines ends after a storm.  An NSF grant ($90k) was secured to study these driftwood deposits as storm surge, which is used as a proxy for storm intensity (Rosales et al. forthcoming).

The second project in this phase looks at changing wind patterns.  TEK holders in Savoonga tell us that the predominant wind direction has changed from NW 30 years ago to SW now.  When asked how they would measure wind direction, TEK holders there tell us that their elders taught them to note the direction grass layed as an indicator of wind direction.  Another NSF grant may be pursued to measure and monitor the direction grass lays down in the fall as an indicator of wind direction.  Preliminary field trials in Savoonga and at the Environmental Studies’ Living Laboratory show a relationship between predominant wind direction and grass lay direction (and seed head shape).

The next project will probably be addressing sea ice melt, perhaps via the 100 words of ice in the Siberian Yupik language, or to study how weather is now more unpredictable affecting hunting and gathering.  Collaborators are also interested in broadening the driftwood work above.

Dr. Rosales includes Environmental Studies students in all his research activities.  Short descriptions of student collaborators can be found on the AKSIK website.

Research website: AKSIK (Alaskans Sharing Indigenous Knowledge)

Scholarly and other activities

Dr. Rosales has been invited to address the General Assembly of the United Nations on Earth Day in 2013 and speak regularly at the Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.  He has also presented at conferences of the Society for Conservation Biology, the Association for Environmental Studies and Sciences, and the North American Benthological Society, is the Director of International Affairs for the Center for the Advancement of the Steady-State Economy, and is an Expert Reviewer for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Dr. Rosales is fluent in English and competent in Spanish.  He has held many interesting and varied positions including being a chauffeur, greenskeeper, tour bus greeter, fitness instructor, and “slimer” in a fish caning factory in Alaska.  His current passions are climbing mountains, disassociating himself with the commercial economy, and playing with his sons.

Contact Information

Office Hours

Fridays 12:00-2:00 p.m. by Zoom (password: 952171)